Thursday, March 20, 2014

How TFA Ended Up a Writer

There are so many revelations, I couldn't let this pass. The Famous Author wrote a guest post for Sapphyria's Book Reviews, in which he describes his school years. Yikes. You wonder how he survived -- not from any tough neighborhoods, rotten family life or broken hearted events. Oh, no. TFA screwed things up all by himself. Just listen:

"When I was a kid, everybody read books at my house, my Dad and older brother barely closing the pages for dinner. I can still hear my mother scolding them to "put your books away, please" as she served the creamed tuna on toast. (Yuk). Reading stories and other people's words was a learned experience, one I've always loved.

"Everybody at dinner back then was also a college graduate, or headed that way -- everybody but me. I read like crazy during high school, just not the stuff I was supposed to be reading. I think the reasons my grades lacked any sign of average intelligence included the books and stories of Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allan Poe, Hemingway, and Somerset Maugham. Those pages and stories were so much more interesting than algebra, science, and foreign languages. That I refused to do any homework might have been another reason. (It seemed unjust I had to go to school all day and also work later. When school was out, I figured I'd earned time for myself and my interests -- baseball, reading and TV.)

"Nearly flunking out of high school didn't worry me much, but my parents and counselors thought the idea a poor one, so we worked together to find classes I could manage to pass. Not easy with my ban on homework. One of them was Senior Problems. Another -- journalism -- saved me. I discovered a knack for writing quickly and clearly, perhaps because of all that reading. I also learned I liked making up stories.

"Well, actually I knew that before. Ha.

"I worked in a gas station after high school, delivered film to drug stores for a film processor, then for a Chevrolet agency I cleaned cars as the Assistant Lube Man. My favorite job title. I also continued to read a lot and decided to try journalism again. I earned a shot as copyboy on the old Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, got the job and loved it. The newspaper was so much fun, full of interesting characters. Being a reporter sounded cool, too, something to work for, plus they gave me a chance to write immediately. I earned my first byline at nineteen, and I was hooked. Seeing my name in the big metropolitan newspaper made me a writer forever, I think. When the Herald's writers went on strike with the press men a few years later, the Los Angeles Times offered me a job as reporter.

"I was already working on my first novel by then, a rip off of For Whom the Bell Tolls. I had lost two friends in the Vietnam War, and no one could explain to my satisfaction why they or any American had to die there. At the time, I was also reading Hemingway, so my first attempt at a novel was about a group of young Americans hiding in the mountains near Los Angeles, starting a revolution.

"I didn’t get too far before realizing my piracy -- or I figured out it was a dumb story -- and gave up, thank goodness. The next novel attempt, a mystery, I managed to finish. I called it Bakersfield Blue and it's still in a drawer somewhere. The predecessor to BIG MONEY showed up three manuscripts later, took twenty years to be published, and on the way took more turns than a python. But that's another story."

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